3. Up and Down a Hill

3. Up and Down a Hill

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



The Reverend Susan Delight retouched her lipstick, smoothed down her cassock and smiled at her curate, the Reverend Jeremiah Pyke.

You know Alfred Stapleton?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Never heard of him,” was his considered reply.

I suppose you wouldn’t,” she smiled, adding a soupçon of scarlet to her cupid’s bow and pouting into her hand mirror. “After all, you’ve not been here long enough. Alfred Stapleton was a regular until recently and I’ve noticed his pew’s been empty now for several weeks, which isn’t like him. Not like him at all. He always sat in that end pew, the third row on the right when looked at from the pulpit, and he always knew when I’d, er, made alterations to biblical texts. To help the plebs understand better, you know, not because I was making mistakes through ignorance. But he’d look at me and cough when I misquoted something and it used to get right up my nose. But never mind that. I’d like you to pop along and call on him, check his state of health and offer him God’s love. You know the sort of thing.”

He nodded. He knew the sort of thing because although he’d only worked under the Reverend Susan Delight for a couple of months he’d learned that if she asked him to do something it was invariably something she didn’t personally want to do.

Where does he live?” he asked.

You know the flats down by the reservoir?” she asked with the sort of smile that suggested that he might have to walk even though it involved quite a steep hill down and an equally steep hill back up and she was the one with the car, “it’s a ground floor place. Delightful view over the water in spring and summer but a but drab for the rest of the year. And there are swans and ducks to look at if you’ve nothing better to do, though when I’m in that neck of the woods I turn to prayer of thanks for beauty in the warm season and hope for the future in the cold.”

And do they work?”

Do what work?”

Your prayers, of course!”

What do you think? Of course not! Prayers were never intended to satisfy a single person’s demands when there might be a dozen others praying for the opposite!”

And there are a dozen who don’t hope for the future?” he asked, wondering how she’d get out of that one.

It was a for instance,” she said, smiling and terminating the debate. “You’ll find the flats and it’s number two. You can’t miss it. Just knock and wait. He doesn’t like folk walking in, not even the clergy who merely have his spiritual health on their minds.”

I doubt many people do,” he murmured, and smiled. “Would you? Like strangers walking in on you while you’re about … stuff, I mean?”

If my eternal soul was about to be rescued, maybe I would,” she said, frowning.

Does it need to be rescued?” he asked, knowing he was probably overstepping the mark but he still hadn’t properly come to terms with working for a lady vicar because it still seemed most unbiblical to him.

You cheeky boy!” she grinned, “now off you trot to dear old Alfred and I’m going to rehearse the angels for the nativity.”

But that’s months off!” he pointed out.

And my angels are thick,” she said gruffly, “now off you go and make sure that poor old Alfred’s not about to peg it and carry all his sins with him when he greets our Lord without a spot of forgiveness first.”

Jeremiah sighed, pulled on a thin jacket, it being a) a warm day and b) the only jacket he had, and set out down the steepest hill in the county for the flats near the reservoir.

As he walked he began to ask himself quite serious questions about the devotion of the Reverend Susan delight when it came to the church but decided he didn’t know her well enough and anyway it was none of his business.

His main concern, he told himself, was keeping personally alert in case death came to visit him unexpectedly, because he was still obsessed with what it would be like to be in the precise moment when life ceased and death began. It might be said of him that his obsession was morbid, and he knew that, but it was also fascinating and asked a question of him, one that he didn’t want to miss the answer to when it came along, as surely it must one day.

The reservoir was as picturesque as he’d known it would be, and there was a family of ducks swimming in immaculate formation across it. He paused for a few moments and asked himself why people couldn’t be as ordered as were those ducks, and then told himself the truth was if they were there’d be no need for God, and he loved his God like he’d been taught to all his life. The odd thing was, even though he was intellectually as bright as a very shiny button he didn’t see anything remotely strange about that.

Number two of the flats was the first one he came to when he stopped fantasising about ducks. In contrast to the rest of the development it had about it an uncared for, scruffy look, as though nobody lived there and it had been empty for some time.

What if the old man is dead already?” he asked himself.

Hey mister,” came a chirruping voice from the other side of a fence, “you want the old fart, cause if you do you’ll have to be quick. My mum says he’s not long for this world, and good riddance!”

The owner of the chirruping voice was a small boy badly in need of boxed ears and a clout, and he stood there grinning at Jeremiah, who scowled back and stood in such a position that his clerical collar was prominent.

It must have been that which sent the evil little brat (Jeremiah’s mental definition of the boy), scarpering, and the door to number Two Reservoir Flats opened.

What you want?” came a voice well oiled with surplus mucous.

Mr Alfred Stapleton was possibly the oldest man that Jeremiah had ever actually seen, though he had heard tell of centenarians who received telegrams from the monarch congratulating them on their extreme skills when it came to surviving the turmoil of life. Maybe, he thought, Mr Stapleton was one of those.

Well, what is it?” repeated the greasy voice

The vicar asked me to call,” he said at length and because some sort of reply seemed to be necessary.

Ah, she did, did she?” gurgled the geriatric voice, “wonders why I ain’t make it to her church, does she? Well, you can tell her this, young man, I ain’t as young as I was and that hill’s a killer. Now she’s the one with the car and if she wants me in that pew it would be a real help if she would go to the trouble of fetching me!”

Now, Jeremiah had just walked down that same hill and had a first hand understanding of what the old man meant. After all he himself would have to climb back up shortly, and he wasn’t looking forward to that.

I’l tell her,” he said, and smiled at Mr Stapleton in a conspiratorial way, “It’s something I can look forward to, telling her that!”

And you’ll do something for me?” grinned Mr Stapleton, “it would be a real good thing … I’ll even treat you to a tot of home brew if you come back and tell me what she says!”

Jeremiah nodded. “Then I will,” he said, “will tomorrow do?”

Alfred Stapleton nodded and grinned. “Tomorrow will be fine,” he squelched, “if there is one, that is.”

© Peter Rogerson 09.08.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on August 9, 2020
Last Updated on August 9, 2020



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..